Inclov has helped over 7,000 people with disabilities across India find their match, say the platform’s founders.

 Dating is hard for Indians with disabilities but now theres an app to help
news Disability Monday, November 13, 2017 - 09:25

If you’re under the age of 35, the chances are fairly high that you’ve swiped right or left in the recent past. But for people living with disabilities, online dating is a much harder game.

Will the other person understand my condition? Is the place we are meeting at wheelchair-accessible? What will I do if I want to bail in the middle of a date? 

These are just some of the innumerable questions that give persons with disabilities second, third and fourth thoughts about the possibility of meeting someone online.

But living with a disability shouldn’t be reason to keep someone from going out on the town and letting their hair down. That’s why Kalyani Khona and Shankar Srinivasan decided to launch Inclov –  a matchmaking app for people with disabilities and health disorders. 

“Initially, the idea started as an offline meetup because I was disheartened by how matrimonial sites did not support people with disabilities. But soon, I realised the virtues of the online model and decided to build the app. We posted our idea on Wishberry (a crowdfunding platform) and thankfully 140 people from around the world chipped in to make Inclov happen,” says Kalyani. 

As its name suggests, Inclov helps people with and without any disabilities connect with each other, and was launched in 2016. So far, the co-founders say, it has helped around 7,000 people find a match.

“Apart from the app, we also organise offline meetups where people can come and have a night out. So far we’ve held it in cities including Delhi, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Kolkata and now Bengaluru,” adds Khona.

Sunday saw the group’s first Bengaluru meetup, called Social Spaces, at Hotel Lalit Ashok. This was their 29th offline meetup, where members of the Inclov network get to meet face-to-face, build new networks and have a fun night. 

Like, 28-year-old Sreenivas, a techie who has been walking with the help of crutches since he contracted polio at the age of five. “I came here to meet and talk to new people. I met a blind person who writes books and I thought that is inspirational,” says Sreenivas, as he jives to a Nucleya song.

While the organisers kept the event fun and casual, as with any other such meetup, what was different was the special effort taken to make sure every participant was included.

So, a sign language interpreter was included to help ensure that persons with hearing disabilities could be part of the spoken conversations. And every part of the venue was made fully accessible, so that none of the participants needed help finding their way around.  

For 35-year-old Anusha*, who moves around in a wheelchair since an accident 10 years ago, this effort to include everyone made the evening more special.

"Every time I go out, I feel like I inconvenience my family. I am not sure if places are accessible, and often I feel like I don't meet people who understand what I experience. That's why when I read about this in the paper, I decided to come here," she says.

For some of the participants at the Bengaluru meetup, finding a partner who understands what it’s like living with disabilities seems a more distant prospect. Right now, many of them say, they’re happy to meet like-minded people who they can relate to.  

Kalyani explains that there has always been the need for a platform like Inclov, since the practical complexities of living with disability often deny people the chance for romance and marriage. India has over 26 million people with disabilities, she points out. And according to the 2011 census, 40% of them remain unmarried.

“Many don’t even think that marriage is an option even though they might want to marry. With so many factors to consider, they are hesitant to explore this option,” she explains.

What makes Inclov unique, she adds, is that its algorithm takes the complexities of individuals into account. The app factors a person’s medical information, level of mobility and percentage of disability, in addition to factors like age and location.

Kalyani adds that the application has also helped persons with autism and persons living with depression find matches. 

While crowdfunding helped the platform take off, Inclov raised an undisclosed amount in its first round of funding from a clutch of investors. The group plans to organise one meet-up every month in New Delhi, besides the cluster of events they organise across Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.

Featured Photograph Courtesy: Inclov

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